Do Hot Teachers Teach Better?

As the final project of my Intro to Political Analysis class, we had to write a short paper proposing a solution to some puzzle, and then determining if our solution was correct. This is what I did:

Do Hot Teachers Teach Better?

Introduction.

Ratemyprofessors.com is a site where students can post ratings of professors they have had, evaluating them on “helpfulness,” “clarity,” and “easiness.” “Helpfulness” describes how available and approachable the professor is. “Clarity” describes how well the professor teaches the material. A teacher’s overall rating is the average of their clarity and helpfulness scores from everyone who has rated them. “Easiness” is not factored in, though students can still use this measure to rate “how easy or difficult a class is”. Students can also post the grade they received in the class, and they can note whether their teacher is “hot” or not. Hotness is not measured numerically, but teachers who are hot are marked by a red chili pepper on their page. If there are more students who say a teacher is hot than students who say a teacher is not hot, the chili pepper will appear, though the number itself is not displayed.

The puzzle here is that teachers who are “hot” seem to receive a higher overall rating—a 2006 paper from Medaille College found that teachers labeled “hot,” on average, scored 0.8 points higher on their overall rating, suggesting either that hot teachers are more helpful, and teach their material more clearly, or that students are biased toward giving hot professors better ratings, regardless of their quality as a teacher.Read More »